Monday, September 19, 2005

Operation Bolivian Freedom

In 2000, U.S. President George W. Bush, said, “Never before in its history has the United States been so dependent on foreign oil. In 1973, the country imported 36% of its oil needs. Today, the country imports 56% of its crude oil.”

According to the Bush administration, wherever there are desired natural resources there are terrorist threats which work as an excuse for imperialist intervention, both covert and overt.

Peter Goss, director of the CIA, stated last February that the agency has “evidence” of meetings between Colombia’s FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and Osama Bin Laden’s network to coordinate terrorist attacks in the region. Colombia is the fifth largest provider of oil to the US, and neighboring Venezuela is the fourth. Keeping a close watch on this black gold requires strong territorial control over these resource rich areas. This excuse of a terrorist threat is a common one.

In the case of Paraguay, the US is justifying its current military presence in the country by citing Islamic terrorist activity in the triple border region where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet, an area rich in natural gas and water reserves.

The US troop activity in Paraguay, and rumors of the development of a new US base there, have angered neighboring countries.

From Russia's Pravda paper: “Paraguay has became a serious headache for its larger neighbours and partners in the Mercosur bloc, Argentina and Brazil, since the tiny landlocked South American nation admitted having reoriented its foreign policy toward a closer approach to Washington…diplomats did not rule out the possible establishment of a permanent US military base in the country. Paraguay will withdraw from the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) if the United States opens a permanent military base in the country, a Paraguayan diplomatic source said on Thursday.”

US intervention in Latin America isn’t anything new. In the case of Chile in 1973, Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004 the US funded and helped planned coups against leaders that weren’t warm to US interests in the region. Hired guns, or Private Military Corporations, are also a common strategy. If the Pentagon wants to send thousands of troops to Paraguay, they have to get it approved by Congress. But if a private company is contacted for the job, Congress doesn’t have to know about it. For this reason and others, a bond exists between military officials and multinational businesses (who profit the most from resources exploitation); both often hire private armies to do their dirty work. In Latin America, these hired guns rarely conduct direct intervention. More often than not, they offer strategic advice and training. In recent years, eight US citizens have died in Colombia, but because they were working for private corporations, the Pentagon escapes responsibility.

US troops are already operating in Paraguay. Will the US goes as far as invading Paraguay or neighboring Bolivia, where the gas reserves are located? Is “Operation Bolivian Freedom” next on the Bush agenda?

For more information on this topic see a couple of articles I just finished:

What is the US Doing in Paraguay?

US Military in Paraguay Prepares to Spread Democracy

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Grassroots Solutions in New Orleans Crisis Similar to Solidarity in 2001 Argentine Economic Crash

In December 2001 in Argentina, the economy collapsed. Citizens weren’t able to take money out of their bank accounts, countless workers were laid off. Hunger and homelessness swept the country. A cry directed at the government filled the streets throughout this crisis: “Que se vayan todos ya!”

In English this basically means, “Throw the bums out!”

In the eyes of many Argentines, the federal government had done little to nothing to solve the economic crisis. A common rumor at the time, (which was likely to have been true), was that the only public employees that were receiving a paycheck were the police and military, whose main job at the time was to control protests and strikes.

Demonstrations filled the streets as diverse classes demanded solutions. The country went through four presidents in two weeks. Yet the government still did nothing. As a result, people took matters into their own hands. They organized among their neighborhoods to help each other out with food and clothing. Alternative forms of currency were developed, urban gardens sprang up everywhere, workers occupied and ran bankrupt factories and businesses, grassroots health clinics and barter markets emerged across the country.

The crisis in New Orleans is very different from the one Argentina suffered through. However, one thing is similar – in both cases the federal government failed the people in a desperate time of need. The result in Argentina was a grassroots revolution, based on neighborly solidarity and a need to survive.

As the crisis continues in New Orleans, many citizens have taken matters into their own hands as well. Stories abound in the press of citizens in New Orleans banding together to search for survivors, rebuilding schools, starting their own rescue missions and setting up makeshift hospitals to take care of the sick. There is now a large number of grassroots hurricane relief groups operating on the ground.

And Democracy Now! reports that: Independent media activists are setting up a low-power radio station at the Houston Astrodome to provide critical information to hurricane Katrina evacuees.

As global warming increases the likelihood of similarly destructive natural disasters, oil becomes more scarce and free market policies continue to impoverish American citizens, it will be important to learn from the lessons of the 2001 Argentine crisis, and while demanding solutions from the government, also turn to each other and organize!